independent

Monday 24 September 2018

Author’s deliciously dark debut launched

At the launch of Tina Callaghan’s debut novel in New Ross library (from left): Sarah Finn, Cushinstown, RubyNoonan, Terrerath, Siún Brennan, Newbawn, Cora Noonan, Terrerath, and Naoise Brennan, Newbawn
At the launch of Tina Callaghan’s debut novel in New Ross library (from left): Sarah Finn, Cushinstown, RubyNoonan, Terrerath, Siún Brennan, Newbawn, Cora Noonan, Terrerath, and Naoise Brennan, Newbawn
Author Tina Callaghan with New Ross Standard journalist David Looby who launched the book
Niall Bradley, Newbawn, and Helen Bradley, Knockavilla, at the launch

David Looby

A 150-strong crowd attended the launch night of author Tina Callaghan's debut novel Dark Wood Dark Water in New Ross Library.

Librarian Anne Griffin welcomed everyone, paying tribute to her colleague Tina who has worked in the county library service for several years, describing her generosity of spirit and her infectious love of books.

In January Tina signed a three book deal with Poolbeg Press for her River's Edge series. The first spooky instalment, Dark Wood Dark Water hit the shelves on Saturday, in time for Hallowe'en. From Begerin, Loftus, just outside New Ross, Tina works at New Ross Library by day. She has been an avid reader and writer all her life and told her mother when she was a young child that all she wanted was to be a writer. She has been published in horror anthologies by Stephen King's publisher.

Drawing on a rounded and well-honed knowledge of fiction in all its guises, Tina based her story on the curse of New Ross. 'The story is very loosely based on the medieval history of New Ross. In the 13th century there was an abbey on Priory Street run by the Crutched Friars. They were hospitular monks who became corrupt. They put a very high toll on the river and when a popular ship's captain was nominated to try and get the toll reduced they murdered him. The people of New Ross rose up and drove the monk from the town, drawing a curse from the abbott.

'The Pope of the time supported the monks and took the sacraments from the town and it was only in 1945 when the last enclave of these monks returned to bless the town and lift the curse.'

Set in a fictional Irish town called Bailey where bad things happen to its residents, the action sparks to life when a brother of one of the protagonists dies in the river. There is an unrequited love story between two of the teenagers, Gabe and Kate, and between the three friends, they try to get to the bottom of the curse. 'They keep seeing the animated bodies of the dead in the river and they get chased by the dead abbot and there is a banshee.'

Journalist David Looby praised Tina for her 'deliciously dark debut' novel.

He said: 'It's one of the best blockbusters to be written in many a moon on these shores. And it is these shores and the river below our window which are the inspiration at the heart of Tina's audacious novel.'

He said Tina's Bailey is loosely based on New Ross, a town with a storied and rich history of its own, adding 'but it is her skill as a fiction writer and the particularity and vision of her writing which lifts the narrative time and again. There's gore, twists, turns, there's romance, unrequited love, a curse and an age old battle between good and evil. What's more - there's Tina: her voice, her wit, her humour and her grace shine through on every page.'

He said in the young adult fiction book Tina successfully returns us to those exhilarating, awkward, obsessive teenage years. 'Who knows - Kate, Josh and Gabe could be the Hermoine, Harry and Ron of Harry Potter fame - of a whole new generation of young adult fiction readers.'

Tina thanked her colleagues for hosting the event, the crowd for attending and her brother Des for the music.

She said she was blessed to grow up in a house full of books and comics. Tina said her mother was a voracious reader who passed on her passion for reading dark and interesting stories to her. She developed a love of Stephen King and the horror genre.

'As an adult, I discovered that the reason horror appeals to so many people is that it provides a delicious scare from a safe place. It makes adrenaline course through our veins and the part of our brain that remembers being chased by a sabre toothed tiger is both thrilled and terrified, all the while knowing, it'll all be OK in the end. That feeling is important. Children's fears return in much the same form for every generation; the clothes on the chair looking like a figure in the dark, watching us; the hand that reaches from under the bed to grab a bare foot. Those are the feelings that kept us alive at a time when we were not the apex predator.'

She said for her first novel, there was only one way to go. 'My dad loved the river and we spent a lot of time on it in our teens. My Mam loved the woods and we spent a lot of time there too. Dark Wood Dark Water speaks through poetic licence about those times. Dark Wood Dark Water is about three teenagers, who face down an ancient evil in an effort to save their town, their friends and family, and themselves.'

She urged anyone pursuing a dream, to never give up. 'In terms of writing, some people get snapped up the instant they write a book and are suddenly best sellers. That's like winning the lotto. Mine is the more common experience. It has taken hard work, hard neck and dogged persistence to achieve this dream. Luck has a part to play, but a small one.'

The book is available in good book shops and online.

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